Discussion and Lesson Plan For 9/11 Panel With Speakers from Diverse Religious, Racial, and Ethnic Communities

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Recommended Exercise
  • Moderator – Zachary Markwith, PhD, ING Education Director
  • Muslim American – Ameena Jandali, ING Content Contributor
  • Sikh American – Gurwin Singh Ahuja, Co-Founder, National Sikh Campaign
  • Jewish American – Rabbi Melanie Aron, Congregation Shir Hadash
  • White Christian American – Rev George McDonnell, Ascension Episcopal Church
  • Hindu American – Raju Rajagopal, Board Member, Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR)
  • Japanese Buddhist American – Devon Matsumoto, President, Young Buddhist Editorial
  • African American – Sheila Dawkins, Social Justice Organizer
  • Latinx American – Luis Felipe Camacho-Lovell, AOL Border Rights Project Volunteer
  • Asian American – Daisy Kim, PhD, Asian American Studies educator
  • In Closing
  • Final Guiding Questions


The 9/11 attacks led to two different responses, one based on fear and xenophobia and the other based on love and solidarity. We invite teachers and students to learn and reflect on how 9/11 impacted Americans from diverse religious, racial and ethnic communities, the lessons they have learned, and the recommendations they have for us on countering bigotry.

On Thursday September 9, 2021, ING held a panel discussion with representatives from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, African American, Latinx, and Asian American communities.

View this webinar above to listen to what each said.

Recommended Exercise

Divide the students into nine equal groups and assign each group one of the nine speakers who represents her or his community’s perspective on the impact of 9/11. For each of the speakers, we’ve provided guiding questions and resources for educators and students to help them critically analyze what the speakers had to say.

Moderator – Zachary Markwith, PhD, ING Education Director

Acting as facilitator of the discussion, the speaker tells us that two visions and responses emerged and crystallized after 9/11.

  1. How did he describe them? What examples of events and actions did he provide for each?
  2. Do you agree with him?
  3. Do you think these responses are still reverberating today?  In what ways? How might they be present in your local town or the nation?
  4. Which vision of America do you identify with? One or both?

Additional resource: The author of this editorial agrees with the moderator: Grade 9-12 Lesson: 9/11 Reflections | Islamic Networks Group (ING)

Muslim American – Ameena Jandali, ING Content Contributor

  1. The speaker begins by addressing the immediate impact of 9/11 on her and on other Muslim Americans. How did she describe that immediate impact? Why did her sister offer her a hat to wear, and why do you think this was significant? Resources:  Why the Hijab? | BeliefnetDiscrimination Against Muslim Women – Fact Sheet | American Civil Liberties Union
  2. How did she describe the impact on Muslim Americans? Why did she say that hate crimes are not usually reported? Resources: Data: Hate crimes against Muslims increased after 9/11 | PRI; American Muslims are successful, optimistic and patriotic: But Islamophobia is worse than ever | Salon.com
  3. What did she say about the impact on Muslim students in particular? How did she describe their experiences in the aftermath of 9/11? Resource: Muslim Children Twice As Likely to Be Bullied, New Report Finds | Newsweek
  4. How did she describe the government’s response to Muslims post-9/11? Do you think it was justified to suspect all Muslim Americans? Or all Muslims from Iraq and Afghanistan? How have attitudes towards Muslims changed or stayed the same since 9/11? Resource:  Views of Muslims in the U.S., 20 years after 9/11 | Pew Research Center
  5. She describes the media, Hollywood, and video games as sources of negative portrayals of Muslims. What evidence did she provide for this? Have you seen evidence of this yourself in video games or movies?
  6. She references Islamophobic groups as sources of anti-Muslim fears. What is Islamophobia? And what are Islamophobic groups? Resources: “Fear Inc.: The Roots of The Islamophobia Network in America”: Fear, Inc. | Center for American Progress; “Fear Inc. 2.0: The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America”:  Fear, Inc. 2.0 | Center for American Progress 
  7. She cites one example of an Islamophobic campaign: the so-called Ground Zero mosque, which figured in an Islamophobic campaign that led to the rise of hate groups. What are hate groups? Do we have hate groups today working against other marginalized communities? Resource: Hate group | Wikipedia
  8. What examples does she give as evidence of more positive impacts of 9/11 on Muslim Americans? When she says, “We are stronger and more united when we work together,” can you cite examples of what that looks like in your experience?
  9. Look up the organization Islamic Networks Group that this speaker works for. What do they do, and do you think their work helps improve perceptions of Muslim Americans and their relations with others? Resource: Islamic Networks Group (ING)

Sikh American – Gurwin Singh Ahuja, Co-Founder, National Sikh Campaign

  1. What personal features of Sikh American dress did the speaker mention that contributed to their treatment post-9/11? With whom was the dress associated? Do you think this was fair? What do these same features actually represent and symbolize for Sikh Americans? To further understand Sikhism and their religious dress, reference these sources: The Ten Tenets of Sikhism | Learnreligions.comWe Are Sikhs
  2. What forms of hate did Sikh Americans experience? How did people perceive the speaker himself after 9/11?
  3. To illustrate the painful impact of hate on Sikh Americans, the speaker relates the story of Balbir Singh Sodhi, who was murdered after 9/11 because he was thought to be a Muslim. Mr. Sodhi was Sikh. How does the speaker describe Balbir? What does this story tell us about the dangers of stereotyping people as “terrorists”? Here is more of Balbir’s story: Remembering Balbir Singh Sodhi, Sikh Man Killed in Post-9/11 Hate Crime | StoryCorps
  4. How did the speaker personally respond to 9/11? How did the Sikh American community respond? How do the people of that community feel about Muslim Americans? What can we learn from their example?
  5. Look up the organization National Sikh Campaign that this speaker founded. What do they do, and do you think their work helps improve perceptions of Sikh Americans and their relations with others? How? Resource: National Sikh Campaign
  6. Finally, he ends with a definition of what it means to be an “American.” Do you agree with him? What does being an American mean to you?

Jewish American – Rabbi Melanie Aron, Congregation Shir Hadash

  1. The speaker mentions that New York City has one of the densest populations of Jews outside of Israel. Therefore, 9/11 directly impacted the Jewish people in very personal ways. How does the speaker describe this impact on families, whole neighborhoods, and rabbis?
  2. The speaker also described the fears that many Jews felt post-9/11. What false rumors and conspiracy theories about Jews spread after 9/11 that the speaker described? Did the speaker say the conspiracies were new or based on old motifs? Resource: Anti-Semitic 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists Thrive 15 Years After Attacks | ADL. What two groups fueled these conspiracies?  And how did they spread misinformation about Jews at the time?
  3. The speaker mentions the Judo martial arts champion Jeremy Glick. Who was he and how did he help prevent Flight 93 from crashing into the U.S. Capitol? Resource: Calls indicate Flight 93 passengers went down fighting – September 19, 2001 | CNN
  4. What positive event did the speaker recall post-9/11 that took place at a mosque, and how was she personally involved? What impact do you think such an event had on Muslim Americans and on relations between Muslim and Jewish Americans? Have you ever stood with someone who was being harmed or bullied? How did that make them feel? How did you feel about your actions? And would you do it again?
  5. To illustrate improving relations between Jewish and Muslim Americans, the speaker brings up the case of Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL organization who apologized for the supportive position of his predecessor on the Islamophobic campaign against the building of the Cordoba mosque in NYC. What important value does the speaker derive from this apology? Do you agree with her? Resources: Opinion: ADL head: On NY Islamic center, we were wrong, plain and simple | CNN. Reference bridge-building work between Muslim and Jewish Americans by ING: Muslims and Jews share stories, questions over Palo Alto feast | Palo Alto Online | Introduction to the Halaqa-Seder Program | Islamic Networks Group (ING);  The bridge-builders of America | Foundation For Ethnic Understanding

White Christian American– Rev George McDonnell, Ascension Episcopal Church

  1. The speaker opens by addressing the role of St Paul’s Episcopal Church, which is located across from the World Trade Center Towers that fell on 9/11, in serving as a place of rest and relief for the first responders to 9/11. The church ministered and served about 3,000 workers over a period of a few months immediately after 9/11. Inspired by the Church’s ministry and call for peace by the then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey (head of the Anglican Communion to which the Episcopal Church belongs), the speaker tells us that she made a choice about the direction she would take post-9/11, between xenophobia and loving solidarity. What was the choice she made? How does she describe it?
  2. The speaker believes that “religion is the solution to the problem of extremism, and not the problem itself.” What do you think she means by this? And do you agree or disagree with her? Why? Resource: “Religious beliefs don’t always lead to violence”: Religious beliefs don’t always lead to violence | Science Daily;
  3. In what other ways did Christians stand in solidarity with Muslims and Sikhs in response to hate crimes against these groups post-9/11? Resource: Peace Catalyst

Hindu American – Raju Rajagopal, Board Member, Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR)

  1. What does the speaker tell us about the immediate impact of 9/11 on Hindu Americans?
  2. The speaker identifies not just as Hindu, which is a religious identity, but also with his country of origin, India. He immediately explains that Hindu Indians weren’t the only victims of hate crimes, but that other groups of Indian Americans also suffered hate crimes post-9/11. Which two other groups of Indians did he cite?  Resource: Indian Americans | Wikipedia.
  3. The speaker claims that 9/11 impacted not only the people of the United States but also people of other nations. What other countries does he cite as being impacted by 9/11? In what ways does he describe the impact and which groups does he describe as particularly impacted? Resources: ‘They Have My Sister’: As Uyghurs Speak Out, China Targets Their Families | NYTMyanmar Rohingya: What you need to know about the crisis | BBCIndia’s Muslims: An Increasingly Marginalized Population | CFR
  4. The speaker cites an event that took place in the United States (the World Parliament of Religions) in which a Hindu leader, Swami Vivekananda, introduces Hinduism to the American public. The event, the World’s Parliament of Religions, took place between September 11 and 27 in 1893. What does the speaker say the Swami taught about Hinduism?
  5. The speaker quotes Swami Vivekananda as saying, “I fervently hope that this convention is the death knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions [committed by] the sword or with the pen.” What do you think he meant by this statement? Resource: Full text of Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago speech of 1893 | Business Standard
  6. Reflecting on political tensions in his native country, the speaker goes on to say that Hindu Americans like himself have a choice to make between being exclusive and engaging across differences. He makes an argument for engagement across differences, citing the United States. What argument does he make about American values? Do you agree with his vision of America? Why does he say we should focus on youth?

Japanese Buddhist American – Devon Matsumoto, President, Young Buddhist Editorial

  1. How old was the speaker when 9/11 happened? Do you think that impacts his views of the events surrounding 9/11? How? And how might the view of 9/11 held by someone of his age be different from that of someone who lived through the immediate aftermath of that event? Resource: ‘I assume the worst can happen’: What the influence of 9/11 might mean for the future | Cape Cod Times
  2. He cites White supremacy as a source of bigotry in the United States? Research what White supremacy is? Resources: White Supremacy | WikipediaWhite Supremacy | Britannica
  3. The speaker attributes the response of Japanese Americans to what major event in American history in which Japanese Americans were persecuted? Resources: Internment of Japanese Americans | WikipediaKorematsu InstituteDenshoAMERICAN SUTRA: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War | DunkenRyken Williams
  4. The speaker informs us that at one time in the history of America, Buddhism, the religion of many Japanese Americans at the time of incarceration, was viewed in much the same way as Islam is viewed today and that this contributed to the incarceration. Describe what he tells us about the perception of Buddhism in the wake of Pearl Harbor. How does it compare with perceptions of Islam today? Resource: How the U.S. general public views Muslims and Islam | Pew
  5. As a result of these false perceptions about Buddhism, according to the speaker, how were Japanese American Buddhists treated in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor?
  6. The speaker returns to the subject of community based Japanese American responses to 9/11 citing his work in Southern California. What kind of solidary work is taking place between Japanese and Muslim youth? He cites the organization Vigilant Love. Research what they do: #VigilantLOVE. Do you see their work as effective in countering bigotry? How?
  7. He addresses raising awareness of problems he perceives with CVE as one of the solidarity projects between Japanese and Muslim youth. CVE stands for Countering Violent Extremism. Do you agree with what the speaker says about the problems with the program? Resources: Countering Violent Extremism | USAidWhy Countering Violent Extremism Programs Are Bad Policy | Brennan Center
  8. Finally, he argues that the reasons for solidarity work between Japanese and Muslim Americans lies in how the US government unfairly targeted both communities in history and today. How does solidarity work help both communities?

African American – Sheila Dawkins, Social Justice Organizer

  1. The speaker immediately establishes commonalities with previous speakers by saying that African American also experience “Othering.” What does that word mean? Resource: What Is Othering? | Very Well Mind
  2. According to the speaker, in what form did African Americans experience discrimination following 9/11? What impact does the policy of Stop and Frisk have on African Americans and other American people of color? Resource: Why ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Inflamed Black and Hispanic Neighborhoods | NYT
  3. The speaker references the New Amsterdam paper as keeping African Americans connected during the aftermath of 9/11. Resource: New York Amsterdam News: The New Black View. How do African American media serve their targeted community? Do other ethnic communities have their own papers? Resource: What Are Ethnic Media? | Sage Pub
  4. The speaker mentions that African Americans are intrinsically tied to the Muslim American community, so that hate crimes against Muslim Americans naturally impacted African American families and communities. In what way does she tell us that that occurred? Resource: How many Muslims are there in the United States? | Gordon Conwell
  5. The speaker tells us that Africans Americans were impacted by 9/11 in other ways, including the deployment of African Americans and other people of color in the military to fight our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the labeling of African American activists as “terrorists” or “anti-American,” terms that are also associated with Muslims. What might that tell us about how minorities are treated in the country? Do they have common cause to work together as this speaker tells us? Resources: Supplementing Education Relating to Countering Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Black Racism, and Other Forms of Bigotry | Islamic Networks Group (ING) A Reminder to Stand Up and Work Together Against Bigotry in All its Forms | Islamic Networks Group (ING)

Latinx American – Luis Felipe Camacho-Lovell, AOL Border Rights Project Volunteer

  1. The speaker self-identifies in several ways, including age, ethnicities, national origin, and even profession. What would you say about his identity? Do you think self-identity impacts how you see the world? Cite your own experience in comparison to your friends or adults in your life. Resource: The Impact of Identity | Facing History
  2. In what major way does the speaker tell us 9/11 impacted his Latinx community at the border? What is the border? And what did Latinx people and other minorities begin to experience at the border after 9/11 according to the speaker? How does the speaker describe these experiences? What impact do you think this might have on a person’s self-worth, dignity, and humanity? Resource: The Legacy of Racism within the U.S. Border Patrol | American Immigration Council
  3. In what ways does the speaker tell us 9/11 impacted his Latinx community already living in the United States? He describes his experiences in great detail and gives specific examples. Resource: The Legacy of Racism within the U.S. Border Patrol | Bloomberg
  4. To illustrate the bigotry that has grown against the Latinx communities since 9/11, the speaker tells us about the 2019 El Paso mass shooting in which 23 people were murdered by someone who claimed that he was acting in response to “a Hispanic invasion.” Resource: ‘It Feels Like Being Hunted’: Latinos Across U.S. in Fear After El Paso Massacre | NYT What is a hate crime? Who is targeted in a hate crime and what impact does it have on the targeted communities? Is there a connection between how a community of people are perceived and hate crimes against them? Have you witnessed people stereotyping certain groups? What would you do about it today knowing the harm it can cause them and their communities?

Asian American – Daisy Kim, PhD, Asian American Studies Educator

  1. The speaker starts by deconstructing the “Asian American” identity by addressing the diversity of Asian Americans in national origin, ethnicities, and religions. How many nations are part of Asia? Do you think the term is still appropriate for identifying any group of Americans today? The speaker concludes by reminding audiences that 9/11 affected specific communities within the Asian American community in very different ways. Keeping this in mind, she addresses commonalities of experiences post-9/11. What were the commonalities in the experiences that different Asian American communities had at that time?
  2. In what way does the speaker believe 9/11 impacted our ideas of American citizenship? What rights do American citizens have? Reference: U.S. Constitution – Fourteenth Amendment | Library of Congress. Does this speaker believe that all American citizens are treated equally? What examples does she use to make her case?
  3. How did 9/11 impact the path to citizenship for new immigrants? What risks did this pose for new immigrants at a time of increasingly stringent law enforcement policies?
  4. 9/11 also had a positive impact in building solidarity and relations between different targeted groups of Americans. What specific examples does she cite?

In Closing

The moderator posed as a final question: What lessons have you learned and what recommendations might you have for the audience to constructively address with meaningful actions the bigotry we continue to see in the aftermath of 9/11?  Speakers responded as follows:

Timestamp on the Video:  1:07 – 1:20


  • The speaker emphasized the importance of allyship and solidarity, especially by people who are themselves not under threat; pointed out that 60-70% of mosques are now engaged in interfaith activity.
  • She stressed the importance of political leadership speaking out against injustices, following the example of Congressman Mike Honda and Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta whose families were incarcerated after the Pearl Harbor attack.
  • She indicated the need for self-education about other groups.
  • She also urged the audience to access ING resources, including live speakers and panels and lesson plans and other material.

Rabbi Melanie

  • She declared that issues of the past have come home to roost, and that is why allyship and solidarity between diverse groups is important.


  • He stressed allyship and solidarity between Hindus and other groups, but particularly with African American communities who continue to bear the brunt of hate and bigotry.
  • He also pointed out how the example of the American civil rights movement can help people of other nations in their fight for equality and freedom.

Rev George

  • She expressed appreciation for what she learned in the webinar.
  • She acknowledged that her experiences as a White Christian American were very different from the experiences of the other groups on the webinar.
  • She advised other White Christian Americans that it’s important to listen to the experiences of minority communities and to stand with them as best you can.
  • She stated that the best form of allyship is to listen first, then to ask questions, and finally to provide support where needed.


  • She pointed out that terms like racial profiling and hate crimes have become normalized but that the root problem of White supremacy is what we need to tackle.
  • She also emphasized that working together is the only way forward.

Final Guiding Questions

  1. What patterns did you identify in speaker responses to:
    1. The impact of 9/11 on their communities?
    2. Lessons learned and recommendations for countering bigotry?
  2. Were you surprised by what any of the speakers said?
  3. What inspired you about this conversation?
  4. What steps will you take to counter bigotry in your circles of influence? References: For Individuals-Calls to Action for Countering Bigotry; For Institutions-Calls to Action for Countering Bigotry.